Organized Interests as Intermediaries
The conventional model of liberal democracy emphasizes the importance of elections, the sovereignty of the legislature, and the role of political parties. This has been modified by a recognition of increased executive power and the decline of legislatures. However, traditional notions of democratic accountability--linking voters, parties, and governments--have retained their importance in political science--hence the increasing concern with the alleged distancing of governing élites from their peoples. Yet by the 1960s advanced industrial democracies had begun to experience the burgeoning of the citizen action movement, the escalation in demands for more 'participation', and the proliferation of new procedures and new institutions designed to facilitate more and 'better' participation. That decade can be described as the start of the participation explosion in Western democracies. New and more effective forms of linking citizens to governing élites have emerged in the context of a very active market for public participation in politics.
This explosion of citizen activity was in part grafted on to existing conventional modes of participation--voting and campaigning for political parties. In fact, the history of democracy is one of expanding participation and of expanding the modes of participation available to citizens. For example, there has been a steady expansion in voting. 1 Voting was the first participation explosion. Participation in campaign activities is an extension of electoral participation beyond the act of voting. Although fewer citizens participate in campaigning, Dalton argues that, 'as a result of this additional effort, this participation mode provides more political influence to the individual citizen and conveys more information than voting'. 2
These long-established channels or modes of participation are, of course, still enormously important features of the political landscape.